11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! 12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God. 17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
The name ‘Israel’ only occurs once in the letter to the Galatians and therefore catches the eye. Earlier on, it was about Jews (2:13-15). What is Christ’s servant thinking of by “the Israel of God”? Not of that one church for Jews and Greeks (3:28). At the start and at the end he wishes all his readers salam (shalom), but… in particular to the biological offspring of Jacob. Judaic Christians – such as Paul himself! (Fil. 3:5) – have a special status: Israel has not been replaced by the church. (even less Judaism and Christianity because of the Islam!) God’s people has not dissolved, it has transformed into a worldwide community of believers.
Prophecies about the children of Israel, numerous as “sand on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17; Hos. 2:1) became reality because people of all wind directions joined up with “God’s Israel”. Except, Israel’s capital is not anymore the current, but the heavenly Jerusalem (4:25). The circumcision does no longer determine Israel’s identity, Paul is stigmatised by his baptism (3:27). And, like he signs his letter in upper case, he himself is marked with scars as a result of persecution by the will of Jesus.
The Galatians should not have felt intimidated by Jewish brethren who – out of fear of ‘false’ Israelites – wanted to force them into circumcision. Christians should never – out of fear to affront Muslims – discard the “stumbling block” (1 Cor. 1:23) of the gospel. True peace (Col. 1:20) and self esteem, is derived from the cross of Jesus Christ.
May you behold Jerus’lem’s good;
From Zion may God’s blessing flow.
Your children’s children may you see.
May God on Is’rel peace bestow!